As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
It was early spring in Alberta and the ice at our favorite lake was still thick enough for pickup trucks to safely drive over the densely frozen surface to the numerous ice fishing shacks dotting the lake’s center.
The summer beach crowds wouldn’t arrive for a few more months and the lakeside go-karts were still closed for the season, their track buried beneath deep snow. Given the frigid windchill, there were no happy picnickers anywhere to be found.
In short, it wasn’t the time of year that most families would pick to embark on a Great Family Vacation.
But my family is not most families: we are a Lake Family. Going to the lake is deeply ingrained in our shared family identity.
Every year between spring and autumn, we make several day and weekend trips to the lake for a little bit of communing with sun and water and a whole lot of ice cream.
This lakeside ice cream consumption is a huge part of our Lake Family identity. While most Lake Families go to lakes to fish, swim, waterski, sunbathe, camp, or boat, as soon as the Hoffs arrive, we beeline straight for the ice cream shop on the lake’s edge.
My husband, Eric, and our older kids tried fishing a few times, while each time my vegetarian self stayed behind in the hotel dreaming of ice cream and praying that God would protect the fish and keep them away from their sharp hooks.
We tried camping once, on one fatefully disastrous vacation many years ago, after which Eric vehemently proclaimed us Not a Camping Family. To be Not a Camping Family is as critical to our family identity as to be a Lake Family.
Given our identity as a Lake Family (and Not a Camping Family), it goes without saying that to be a child in the Hoff Family is to be a Lake Kid.
However, our youngest child didn’t know this identity yet, having been adopted a month prior during the heart of winter. And our second-youngest child had only been in our family long enough to go to the lake for one short afternoon last fall before the snow fell and the freezing temperatures and dark days arrived.
Therefore, as soon as the calendar proclaimed spring, Eric and I packed the kids into our minivan and sprinted off to the lake, no matter that the lakeside temperature was roughly the same as a kitchen freezer. We are a Lake Family, and it was important to welcome them to this aspect of our family’s identity.
The trip, cold as it was, went spectacularly. Our children loved the lake! Memories were made, lake sunsets were viewed, the hotel swimming pool was a scene of great joy, Eric and one child took a long walk on the frozen lake while I raced the other one back to the warm hotel, and—of course and best of all—a copious amount of lake ice cream was consumed.
On our arrival to the lake, I had solemnly told each child, “I now pronounce you a Lake Kid!” They were thrilled to assume this new aspect of their identities.
Identity is important for anyone, and it becomes especially critical for kids who are adopted halfway or more through childhood. When you have bounced in numerous places, such as with birth parents, extended family members, foster homes, groups homes, and other places, and then you suddenly land in a permanent adoptive family, the adjustment process is huge. Your sense of identity typically takes a massive hit.
As you slowly begin to trust and realize you are safe and that for the first time in your life you don’t have to fear you will be moved at the drop of a hat, a deep transformation and reconfiguring of your mind, life, and spirit begins.
It doesn’t always happen this way, but ideally, over time, you build a solid identity and find a strong sense of place within your new family and that family’s shared identity. This identity affects all aspects of how you now live your life.
It brings to mind the transformed identify that occurs for Christians through our adoption into God’s family, as described in Ephesians 1:4b-5: “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
According to commentary in Bible Gateway, “the Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.”
This mirrors adoption in our modern world, in which adoption provides full rights to the adoptee. To help my kids understand this concept, I tell them that it doesn’t matter how one gets to a playground—whether you fly a helicopter, ride a train or bike, drive a car, hop on one foot down the sidewalk, or any other method of travel—once you are at the playground you are fully at the playground.
In the same way, it doesn’t matter if you are adopted or birthed, once you join our family you are fully our child. You become an ice cream-eating Lake Kid.
And how much greater, even, is the transformation of those adopted into Christ’s family: 2 Corinthians 5:17 proclaims, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
One of the key transformations that occurs in Christian identity is in our calling. Above all else, Christians are to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind and to love their neighbors as themselves (Matt. 22:37-39).
It’s not just a theoretical change: this new identity of love must be demonstrated in our actions and the way we spend the time God entrusts us with.
It is seen in how we treat those seemingly different from ourselves and in how we take a stand against ableism, racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and other ways we see people mistreated, stigmatized, or excluded. It is in how we stand beside a person who is ostracized and listen carefully to them, following their leadership instead of blasting our own rhetoric down their throats.
It’s in how we welcome refugees and newcomers, serve the hungry, and open our hearts to those who need love. It’s revealed in the empathy we display and in how we act justly, embrace mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
To do so is to embrace wholeheartedly our identity as a child of God, following in Jesus’ footsteps.